An estimated 6 million people are active scuba divers, and thanks to organizations like Diveheart, a growing percentage of those divers are people with disabilities. “We have more experience than any other organization in the world in areas of adaptive scuba therapy,” says Jim Elliott, founder, and president. And, in fact, the shop he built is a worldwide leader in adaptive scuba training and therapy, having trained thousands of people with disabilities, adaptive scuba instructors, and buddy-divers.
Perhaps the group’s success is due to its philosophy that adaptive training should be no different than what others receive through nationally recognized training agencies. “Diveheart instructors have specialized knowledge, training, and experience to teach people with all types of abilities,” says Elliott. “This qualifies them to assess specific needs for assistance with scuba-related activities and how to address those needs.” He adds, “Diveheart instructors also teach disabled divers to perform their own ‘scuba needs assessments’ to identify the degree to which they may require assistance. The goal is to build a relationship where disabled divers are comfortable working with their instructors and adaptive dive team members.”
Taking the plunge to learn scuba diving requires adaptation to an entirely different environment than being on good ol’ terra firma. Freed from the confines of gravity, it opens up a three-dimensional, weightless environment underwater.
Bill Bogdon took the plunge in 1991, 21 years after he became a paraplegic as an infant. “Scuba diving is a great equalizer,” he says. It brings “a euphoric feeling like you’re on top of the world.” His scuba diving adventures have taken him to places like Cozumel, the Cayman Islands, Bonaire, the Bahamas (where he did shark dives) and Bonne Terre Mine in Missouri. In 2006, while attending a scuba diving show in Chicago, he met Jim Elliott and learned about Diveheart. Today, he sits on the organization’s board.
“Diveheart made it so easy for me to try scuba diving,” says Chris Block, a 32-year-old engineer paralyzed in 2017. “They were great, and scuba diving is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.” Not long after his initial dive experience, Block learned about a Diveheart Cozumel trip, and once again experienced Diveheart’s support. “They helped me raise the funds to travel to Cozumel where I saw so many of the things underwater that I fantasized I might see.”
Diveheart hosts a plethora of activities, taking place from Cozumel, Mexico, to Key West, Florida. To find out how to get involved, you can visit their website or call (630) 964-1983.
Image credit: Photo by Author